AREAS OF CONCERN FOR TEXAS AS SEASON OPENS

When you put Texas' pros and cons up against No. 11 Notre Dame, there are areas of concern. Here are mine:

#1 ... The direction of the offense

Will it be a spread-to-run concept a la Gus Malzahn and Auburn (maybe if Jerrod Heard is in the game)? Or will it be a sped up version of last year's offense with Tyrone Swoopes at QB?

 

#2 ... Swoopes' confidence, Heard's intensity

Is Swoopes' confidence real? How tough and determined has he become? How will he handle adversity at South Bend or in any game? If he's leading a comeback, will his teammates believe in him?

Is Jerrod Heard ready for his closeup? This is his moment, and I've been told there are times - still - when the coaches can't tell if football matters enough to him. Is Heard ill-prepared? Or is he just the most laid-back QB on the planet and only ramps things up when the lights come on?

 

#3 ... Entire team's ability to handle adversity

Last year, we kept hearing from seniors that there were still players in the locker room who didn't care enough, who didn't buy in enough, who didn't have enough dog in em. Has that changed enough with the infusion of the 2015 class?

 

#4 ... Youthful mistakes

As much energy and swagger came on campus with the 2015 class, there are undoubtedly going to be youthful mistakes.

Heard has never played in a college game.

Neither has LB Malik Jefferson, WR John Burt, LT Connor Williams, RG Patrick Vahe or some of UT's DBs (John Bonney, Holton Hill, Davante Davis and Kris Boyd, etc).

How costly will those mistakes be?

 

#5 ... Linebacker experience and depth

Gone are Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond and all of their reps in big games.

Texas may well rely on a couple freshmen in the starting lineup in Malik Jefferson and Ed Freeman. And Freeman missed a week of camp with an ankle injury.

Freshman LB Breckyn Hager, who is a starter on special teams, is fighting through shoulder and knee injuries but expects to play at Notre Dame.

 

#6 ... Punting

Michael Dickson of Australia seemed overwhelmed early in camp - and that was just practice. What will happen in front of Touchdown Jesus?

 

#7 ... Offensive line cohesion

The O-line is likely to have two freshmen - LT Connor Williams and RG Patrick Vahe - against Notre Dame. This group hasn't worked with each other that long, and the O-line needs coordinated movement like no other position.

 

#8 ... Playing two QBs

I agree with playing both Swoopes and Heard, but it has to be managed seamlessly, or it could eat at the confidence of the players, the offense and ultimately the team.

 

#9 ... Health at RB

Johnathan Gray missed a week of camp with ankle and elbow injuries. D'Onta Foreman didn't practice this week after getting dinged in last Saturday's scrimmage. Kirk Johnson missed extended time with a shoulder injury. Gray and Johnson are back. D Foreman  (hammy) is expected back this week.

 

#10 ... Did I mention the direction of the offense?

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: Texas is definitely still thin at key positions (TE, OL, LB and RB because of recent injuries) and is an enigma on the offensive side of the ball until we see what the law firm of Wickline and Watson has come up with.

What the Horns do have going for them is a veteran defensive front with an - at times - unblockable DT in Hassan Ridgeway and a lot of youthful swagger and SPEED! Lots of SPEED!

Speed can cover up a lot of mistakes.

WR Marcus Johnson said the team's speed and improved play-making because of its speed are the reasons he thinks Texas could bounce back from any early adversity suffered at Notre Dame.

If the defense is swarming and getting pressure on Irish QB Malik Zaire, who is not yet in a position to beat Texas with his arm, the Horns should be in this one into the 4Q  -  even if it's an ugly, 7-6 or 10-7 type game.

Texas just has to avoid turnovers and reserve the right to punt ... and then pray the punt goes down the field and not left or right. 

 


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